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Integrated thinking in the reporting of public sector enterprises: a proposal of contents

Pilar Tirado-Valencia (Department of Financial Economic and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)
Magdalena Cordobés-Madueño (Department of Financial Economic and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)
Mercedes Ruiz-Lozano (Department of Financial Economic and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)
Marta De Vicente-Lama (Department of Financial Economic and Accounting, Universidad Loyola Andalucía, Spain)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 7 November 2019

Issue publication date: 14 May 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to explore how preparers of non-financial information in the public sector report on the integrated thinking (IT) concept proposed in the integrated reporting (IR) initiative. This concept has not been sufficiently examined, and there is no consensus regarding its meaning. In addition, the elements required to put IT into practice have not been empirically investigated. Specifically, given its relevance in the creation of public value, IT in the field of public sector enterprises is analysed.

Design/methodology/approach

To this end, content analysis of a sample of IR reports prepared by state-owned entities is performed with the aim of identifying which aspects offer opportunities for improvement with respect to transparency and sustainability.

Findings

The results show empirical evidence on the relevance of the dimensions considered for IT. However, IT is not yet fully implemented in reporting of the studied organizations despite its importance in the IR framework. Regarding the links between IR information and the process of value creation and strategy, the results reveal that in the external approach dimension connections of the environment and the business model with value creation are relatively frequent. However, connections related to commitment to stakeholder demands are infrequent.

Research limitations/implications

The study has limitations that are primarily related to the small number of sampled companies, which makes it difficult to generalize the conclusions regarding the commitment of organizations to IT. Second, all the dimensions and variables of IT were equally weighted given the lack of weighting information that should be used in IT index construction. Therefore, the index may not be an accurate measure of the commitment of the public entities analysed to this holistic way of thinking. In addition, this study did not take into account other factors that could influence reporting, such as industry or administrative culture, and all public enterprises in the sample were treated as if reporting demands in the public sector were homogeneous regardless of the environment in which they operate. Finally, this study assumes that the quantity of information disseminated through the report about IT variables is an indicator of the degree of adoption of a holistic thinking. However, IT also requires internal management processes and management behaviours which, in fact, are not always reflected in the reports. This could challenge the internal coherence of the quantity of information disseminated through the report as a measure.

Practical implications

This study’s findings have implications for the reporting of public sector enterprises. From the point of view of preparers, the findings show which aspects were taken into account to reflect IT in the report. Adhariani and De Villiers (2019) consider it a key aspect that preparers should prioritize in preparing the report. The study’s results show that many opportunities exist for improving the content of the nonfinancial information reports and providing evidence about the implementation of IT in public sector reporting. Moreover, this study can help standard setters and practitioners guide the content of reporting by public entities, and thus improving their stakeholder relations, accountability, transparency and credibility. In addition, the results may be interesting for legislators and policymakers when determining what regulatory information should be mandatory for public enterprises. Finally, IT can help governments and public managers identify relevant aspects in the generation of public value and legitimize their actions.

Originality/value

Apart from contributing to the clarification of the IT concept, this study empirically analyses how it is being made visible in the reports prepared by public enterprises that currently follow the IR conceptual framework. The results of this analysis can contribute to improving transparency and accountability. In addition, the findings also have implications for sustainability development, as they reveal not only what aspects should be considered in IT but also how to make it operational. The results show that internal processes should be better coordinated and that there is a need of greater involvement of the managers with nonfinancial aspects. Furthermore, information should be more interconnected. All previous would improve the perception that citizens have of the future sustainability of public entities. Specifically, the findings have direct implications for reporting. First, we improve the understanding of IT by clarifying the elements that are to be integrated. The research findings on these aspects that show a holistic vision of the organization have practical implications for preparers who can gain a deeper understanding of the elements and how they should be incorporated in the reports and taking into account that connectivity should be a relevant issue.

Keywords

Citation

Tirado-Valencia, P., Cordobés-Madueño, M., Ruiz-Lozano, M. and De Vicente-Lama, M. (2020), "Integrated thinking in the reporting of public sector enterprises: a proposal of contents", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 435-453. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-03-2019-0458

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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